Cross Canada Bicycle Ride: The Prairies 1995  

     Where and when does this trip begin and end? The beginning could be
in Vancouver in 1991 or at Edmonton or Stettler.  The ending could be St
John NB, Dartmouth NS or PEI.  Since I still haven't got to Newfoundland
I guess the trip isn't really over yet. 

 In 1991 I cycled from Vancouver, BC to Stettler, Alberta where my
mother lived.  It was great 16 day trip of about 2000 km.  See Velo
Halifax Newsletter #92 (July 1992) or http://fox.nstn.ca/~nstn1181/
  In the summer of 1995 I had lots of free time so why not continue the
trip and ride across the rest of Canada? I knew that most of the trip
would not be as nice as the 1991 trip and some sections would be quite
unpleasant. 

  My steed: Old 531DB touring frame ( Raleigh Grand Sport); Randonneur
handle bars with Suntour Bar-cons; Avocet Cross tires 700x32 on home
built wheels, Weinman 917 rims; front gears 52-40-30, rear 13-34(7 sp);
Blackburn rear rack and front low riders; Esge fenders; Brooks B17
saddle.  Carrying large rear panniers, small front panniers, handlebar
bag, Sierra Designs Meteor Lite tent , sleeping bag and thermarest, SVEA
123 stove.  Weight - TOO HEAVY. 

    Before I started this trip I put on a new chain and new tires.  I am
very happy with these Avocet 700x32 tires, it takes a big piece of glass
to make a flat tire and they last well. My old tires had over 10000 km on
them. They are quite good on gravel roads.

   I should have replaced my headset and bottom bracket, since both had
worn bearings when I started and were very worn by the end of the trip. 

   Summary:
       Edmonton International Airport to Dartmouth NS  5605km
       Extra trip to Prince Edward Island              1134km 

       Average cost per day was $30, not much more expensive than
staying at home! In 1991 there was a shortage of banking machines and
banks in central BC.  However, now there were many cash counters across
the country and many stores now have the Direct Deposit System.  I used
a VISA card as a backup. 

Monday 19-June Dartmouth to Halifax Airport [30 km 256 m climb]
               Edmonton Airport to near Alex, Alberta [137km 532m]

    So I flew from Halifax to Edmonton, Alb.  Rather than spend hours
dismantling my bike and putting it in a box I decided to take my chances
with a plastic bag.  I rode the 30 km from home to Halifax Airport.  It
only took a few minutes to remove pedals, turn handle bars and bag the
bike.  I put my panniers and camping equipment in another bag and
carried a few things on board. 

    It was a 2 hour flight to Toronto and 1 hour wait, then another 4
hour trip to Edmonton. I looked down at the passing landscape and
calculated that every 10 minutes the plane flew over a whole day of
riding!

  The plane landed at 15:00 , my bike arrived only a few minutes after
regular baggage, undamaged. My first fears of bike loss or damage were
over. It only took 15 minutes to get the bike together and another few
minutes to load the bike. I only filled one water bottle which was a
mistake.

  I rode the 5 km from the airport to the town of Leduc on a sunny,
pleasant afternoon.  The area is very flat.  The road, Route 2 is very
busy but has a wide shoulder.  I had decided not to take this road
beyond Leduc although it would have been shorter.
    
   A feature of Alberta scenery are the bobbing "ducks", the oil pumps
stretching across the landscape.  There are many of them around my
sister's farm.  They often have an unpleasant side effects- the smell of
crude oil and often hydrogen sulphide.  This taste also gets into well
water, my sister has to use a filter to make their water taste good. 

   In Leduc I bought some groceries for snacks and possible supper
and breakfast.  It was after 16:00 and I didn't know if I could ride the
130 km to my mother's and sister's place today. 

   I was using a map published by the Alberta Cycling Association a few
years ago. It is just the standard Alberta Road Map with some information of
traffic density and road shoulder width. This map does not show most of
the unpaved 'range' and 'concession' roads which form a rectangular grid
through Alberta. There were even some paved roads missing, such as the
paved road which goes west from Alex, past  my sister's farm to
Blackfalds.

   As I headed through Leduc I saw a bike path and thought I was back in
Scandinavia and it might lead me out of town in the direction I wanted
to go.  Not such luck.  I had to backtrack a little, then finally got on
Rt 2A ,heading South-East with a good tailwind.  Time was about 17:00. 
The road to Wetaskwin had fairly heavy traffic but a wide shoulder.  I
passed a few villages on the way.  I turned east at Wetaskwin, missing
most of the town and again neglecting the refill my water bottles. 
 
   This secondary road was flat with very little traffic and very little
anything. After 6 km I turned south on another secondary road with
little traffic. There were no villages and the few houses were set a
long way back from the road. After 15 km I reached Rt 611. A dirt road
continued to the south but was not shown on my map. I learned later that
this road ends a a marshy area called Sampson Lake so I was lucky I
didn't take it. I turned east, realizing that I would later have to go
back west against the wind. Then I headed south on Rt 822. There were
still no villages or any where else to fill my water bottles. 
 
   Then I had to head west on Rt 53 into a strong headwind.  After
nearly 100 km of flat country I'm into some hills.  It was a slow 8 km
ride to Rt 821 where I turned south.  It was 21:00 and 22 km to Tees.  I
was very thirsty.  But the north-west wind helped me along this section
in less than an hour.  At Tees there was a picnic area with an old pump
that I managed to get some rusty, smelly water out of.  I thought of
camping here but I was so close now.  The sun was just setting at 22:00
as I crossed Rt 12 onto a gravel road which I guessed would lead to near
my sister's farm.  The area began to look familiar and then I reached
the paved Alex-Blackfalds road (not on the highway map).  The farm was
less than a km away, on top of the highest hill in the area.  There was
still lots of light left at 22:30.  Now I can prepare for the big trip. 
The farm is 900 m above sea-level, the highest point I will be at on
this trip. It should be all down hill from here!

  A few days later I rode a 20 km round trip to Alex, the nearest
village, to pick up a movie for my mother, and then returned it the next
day.  That may seem like a hard way to pick up a movie but to me it
would have been illogical to take a car such a short distance (compared
to the distance I was about to ride).  Bikes can be used for more than
just recreation. 
  
   I also spent the time playing with my 4 year old twin nieces. They
were heavily into "The Lion King". Unfortunately I picked up an
intestinal bug from them and contracted a very bad case of diarrhea.

    This was not good when I'm trying to carbo-load. It also causes
dehydration which is also not good when cycling in  warm, dry winds.
With the help of some medication I was feeling better by Sunday.

Sun 25-June Alex-Coronation [145km  224m climbing]

     The weather forcast sounded good- temperatures low 20s and NW
winds. I didn't want to wait even though my digestive system was still
not well.

  So at 09:45 I made my farewells and headed east.  The first exciting
thing was a short run with some deer along the road.  At Alex I got on
Rt 12. This is a good road across most of Alberta, it goes west past
Lacombe, almost to Rocky Mountain House where one joins Rt 11. Rt 12 has
light traffic and a wide shoulder.

 It was an easy 2 hour ride for the 50 km to Stettler, which I had
cycled to in 1991.  I had a first lunch at the tourist bureau.  

  Then I headed off into unknown territory, actually I had ridden about
10 km east of town before.  It seemed to be getting warmer and the winds
seemed to be shifting to East.  I reached Castor and had a snack about
1600, by this time it was quite hot and the winds were definitely strong
from the East.  It was also very dry and this sucked the moisture out of
me, I was already dehydrated.  Streams and ponds ( sloughs) are too
dirty to swim in, let alone drink out of, but there was a pond in the
village park that I wet my shirt in.  It stayed wet for about 15
minutes. 

  During the last 30 km I got slower and slower and could barely
maintain 12 km/hr.  I could see the grain elevators of Coronation but it
seemed to take a long time getting there.  I finally got there at 1900
and went to the Motel, not even considering camping tonight.  It was
reasonably cheap ($30).Due to the oil exploration business, most small
towns in Alberta have good, cheap motels.  There were heavy
thundershowers that night.  I heard that a tornado was reported north of
Stettler. 
  I tried to rehydrate myself by drinking a liter of V8, a mixture of
several vegatable juices. I find it is a good rehydrator, cheaper than
Spotrs drinks and contains lots of vitamins and minerals.
   
Monday 26-June   Kerrobert Sask   [177km  200m] 

  After breakfast I got going about 0830.  There was a NW wind
(tailwind!), it was partly cloudy and temperatures stayed in the
comfortable 15-20 C range all day

  I made the 30 km to Consort where I had an early lunch.  Going fast
down a hill east of town I knocked my bike computer off and saw it and
loose batteries bouncing down the road.  I quickly found the computer,
missing both batteries and covers.  It was almost the needle in a
haystack search for 15 minutes on the road and in the grass.  I was
about to give up when the sun reflected off one battery and I found one
cover next to it.  So I searched another 15 minutes, in vain.  At least
I knew what size cell to get.  I decided not to go back to Consort to
buy new cells.  There were posts every km along the road so I knew how
far I was going.  I cycled for 20 years without digital readout so now I
can spend more time looking at the scenery. 

  What scenery?  It was a very arid looking landscape, rough pasture
lands with only the ocassional cattle. Many of the sloughs were dried
up, leaving white alkali salts. Southern Alberta is even drier than this!

  I passed Monitor and Kirriemuir, not much to describe. Finally I
reached the Saskatchewan border at Compeer where I had a second lunch.
In the summer Alberta and Saskatchewan are in the same time zone.

   Saskatchewan was a totally unknown province to me so I was excited and
concerned. Route 12 changed to Sask. Rt 51 , the shoulder disappeared
and the road was rougher. However traffic remained light.

   I had a short northward stretch into a bit of headwind. At this point
a motorist stopped and asked ME for directions! He just wanted to know
the way to Alberta. 

  Now the land seemed to getting more fertile and there were more grain
fields. Most of the villages were off the highway, the names are
interesting, one was called Superb. Finally at 1845 I reached the major
town of Kerrobert. It was cloudy and windy. There was the Wild Goose
Campground and Motel. I was lazy so I took the motel for  about $30.

Tues 27-June  Milden [164km 100m]

  After breakfast I decided to look around town for the batteries for my
bike computer.  The hardware store didn't have that size but the drugstore
did.  I made a quick fix with a piece of cardboard and tape and the unit
lit up!

   I finally got on the road at 1000 , with cloudy skys and NW winds, it
was a bit hazy.  I headed south on Rt 30, then east on route 31.  The
road was straight, flat and there were no bushes to hide behind for
"nature calls".  This bothered me at first but then I thought , "who
cares".  There is no one out here, I can see that there isn't anyone
coming.  However, I stopped at the junction a dirt side road and took a
few steps in the wet clay.  It is the stickiest stuff I have ever seen. 
I got gunk on my tires and shoes, lucky I don't have SPD cleats! Quite
often I would see have clods of clay on the highway where a truck or
tractor had come off a dirt road.  These are to be avoided! To wash some
of the gunk off my tires I rode in to the water puddles on the pavement
which helped.  There were a few showers off and on , this area needed
the rain. 

   It was a pretty easy and uneventfull day, flat straight roads with
little traffic. Mostly grain fields, the canola was starting to blossom.
I has a first lunch in Plenty and a second lunch in Rosetown.

   I followed Rt 4 for 5 km south, then turned east again on Rt15.  at
about 2000 I turned off to Milden on a muddy street, so I picked up some
more clay.  There was a municipal campground in the village, there was
nobody there and the washroom building was locked.  I checked in the
nearest building, the tavern, and they had the key.  Most villages in
Saskatchewan have municipal campgrounds.  The price is either free with
minimum services or very cheap with more services.  This place was only
$5 and had hot showers.  I just had a tomato juice at the bar and had a
short chat with the local wheat farmers before setting up my tent and
cooking supper. 

Wed 28-June    Douglas Provincial Park   [128km  332m] 

   There was a little light rain over night but it ended before I had
breakfast. I went into the local cafe for a cup of coffee and then
returned the key to the village office.

   Another feature of interest to cyclists is that many Saskatchewan
villages have drinking water stations.  Here farmers with no wells can
fill up big water tanks.  It's a coin operated machine.  One loonie (=$1
CAN) gives them 200 liters (or was it 200 gallons = 900 liters, anyway
it's a lot of water).  This would be about half a cent for filling my
water bottle, but there was a small tap for filling it for free. 

   It was cool at first but warmed up nicely as the sun came out. Today
I had the choice of going south to the Riverhurst ferry or east to the
Gardiner Dam. I chose the latter going south on Rt 42 to Dinsmore, then
east on Rt 44 to Macrorie where I had an early lunch.

   Then I continued to the Gardner Dam, the largest dam on the prairies. 
Lake Diefenbaker is the largest body of water on the prairies.  Almost
all of the water in it comes from snow in the Alberta Rockies.  Most of
the few streams in Saskatchewan end up in dead end sloughs.  In 1991 I
had biked by Bow Lake which one of the sources of the Saskatchewan River
system.  "Rivers of Canada" was to become the theme of my trip. 

    I had a second lunch and then visited the museum which showed the
history, geography etc. of the South Saskatchewan River.

   I almost considered swimming in the lake since I wouldn't be seeing
any lakes this size for weeks. Looking out over the water the sun was
shining and the lake was calm. Then I looked behind me, to the west and
saw some very dark clouds. I decided to head east, fast!

   The wind got very strong, a tailwind fortunately. I kept ahead of
the clouds until I had to turn south on Rt 19. Just out of Loreburn the
rain caught up to me. I found some shelter after only about 5 minutes.
Thunderstorms are a common occurance on the prairies in late afternoon.
Usually they don't last very long.

   After the rain stopped I proceeded to Elbow where I  was in a
cafe from 1700 to 1800 while some more showers passed. I decided to head
for Douglas Provincial Park which was only 10 km down the road.

   It was clearing in the evening 1900 but turned very cool.  The
campground is on the lake but again I didn't go swimming.  The area is
wooded, mostly aspen and birch which is a change from the prairies. 
There are also sand dunes which I hoped to explore in the morning. 
 
Thurs 29-June   Pense   [157km  216m] 

  It was very cool (5C) in the early morning and a heavy dew was on my
tent.  I let it dry in the warming sun at left around 0900, just going
across the road to the interpretive center where I hoped I could find
the trail to the active sand dunes.  The big dunes were further away
than I thought but I walked by some smaller ones.  The area was small
trees but in some open areas there were small cactus growing.  I also
saw a few deer.  I finally left about 1030. 

   The wind was NNW which was very good for me.  I passed the Quappelle
Dam, here another riversystem starts, this flows into the Red River. 
This is the heart of Saskatchewan, mostly wheat and canola fields and
small towns.  I took Rt 367, then joined Rt 42 at Eyebrow. 

   This was the quintessence of Saskatchewan villages. The general store
was closed for lunch hour but I had enough food so I stopped in the
municipal campground for lunch, this one would have been free. It had
drinking water and privies. After lunch I went to the store and then to
the post office where I had a chat with the friendly lady running it.

   I left around 1330 with a good tailwind. Leaving one village I could
see the grain elevators of the next village which was usually 12 km
away. The traffic on all these roads was very light.

  I passed Tuxford just north of Moose Jaw and turned due east on route
202.  I stopped for a snack by an old church.  There was some stray
canola plants growing so I nibbled on them.  The leaves taste a little
stronger than cabbage.  The unopened flower buds taste exactly like
broccoli, which is not surprising.  Canola is an improved hybrid of
rapeseed, a Brassica, a turnip or cabbage plant grown for the oil seeds. 

  The wind had shifted more to the north so I got a good tailwind as I
headed south on Rt 301 to join Rt 1, the TCH, just east of Moose Jaw. 
Off to the east I see large buildings, it must be a mine or factory. 
There is a big dip and rise as I cross the Moose Jaw River.  I can see
the skyline of the city of Moose Jaw, about 10 km west. 

   Rather than take Rt 39 south east to Weyburn, I decided to head for
Regina on Rt 1, the Trans Canada Highway.  The TCH here is 4 lanes and
has a wide shoulder which makes it OK for cycling.  However, it has a lot
of fast traffic, is very noisy, and lacks the charm of the secondary
roads.  I'm glad I'm not following it across the prairies.  I will see
more than enough of the TCH later. 

   There was a strong cross wind, I'm glad it wasn't a head wind. After
seeing it for hours I finally passed the Kalium Mine. This is one of the
largest potash mines in the world. 

   I decided not to try to make the last 30 km to Regina.  The skyline
of the city was already visible! I'll try to find a campground or motel. 
There aren't as many friendly villages on the TCH.  I headed off the road
for a 2 km fight against the wind to Pense at 1930.  There was a park
where I might have been able to camp but I quickly decided against that. 
It was right beside the main CP rail line and there seemed to be freight
trains passing every 10 minutes! I was also feeling lazy, so I booked
into the motel for about $35.  I did make my supper in the park and
there were a lot of trains. 

Frid 30-June   Osage  [140km  124m] 

   It was rather cool in the early morning but warmed up fast in the
sun.  I had my breakfast outside in the park and left around 0900.  The
winds were light and by 1000 I was at the Regina City limits where there
was a large map and city directory .  Then I rode into the city and did
some grocery shopping.  I also stopped in to a bike shop in the slight
chance they might have battery covers for my Avocet 50.  No luck there
but my repair job of tape and a piece of plastic lasted for the rest of
the trip. 

  Regina is quite a nice little city. There is a nice park around Lake
Wascana with bicycle paths. I had an early lunch there. One has to be
carefull where one walks or sits as there were flocks of wild geese
wandering around and they leave a mess!

   So I headed out of town on Rt 33 towards the southeast, unfortunately
the wind has shifted to south so I had a headwind.  The road has a
shoulder and traffic is light.  It's just flat fields with grain
elevators off in the distance again, Richardson, Kronau, Lajord, Sedley,
Francis, Tyvan, Osage - the villages are 12 km apart and the next is
always visible unless the grain elevator has been removed.  It was an
uneventful afternoon except for the herd of elk in one field. 

  My Saskatchewan Tourist Guide does not list all of the village
campgrounds so I don't know what to expect.  At 2000 I saw a wildlife
santuary just before Filmore so I decided to take my chances there.  The
small forest of populars is was a rare change after the grain fields.  I
didn't see any wildlife in the evening or the next morning. 
    
Sat  1-July  Redvers, Sask.    [153km 160m] 

HAPPY CANADA DAY!

  By 0700 I was up and on the road to Filmore where I found that there
was a free municipal campground.  I could have camped here last night in
more comfort!.  After I cooked breakfast I found out that they were
having a pancake breakfast in town.  I hoped that other towns along the
way would be also having Canada Day breakfasts.  By 10 or 11 I would be
ready for a second breakfast. 

   The winds were south to southwest but quite light in the morning.
However, even with no strong headwinds I find riding on the prairies
tiring.  It's just constant pedalling with no breaks- sort of like
pedalling on a wind-trainer all day! My pedalling method was to spin in
one gear for about 5 minutes, shift up , pedal another 5 minutes, shift
down, etc. Also changing hand positions frequently helped.

   I got to Strougton around 1045 and there was no pancake breakfast!
Towns further ahead were having them but I'd be too late. Now I'm hoping
for a Canada Day supper with Saskatoon pies.
 
  I now head east on Rt 13 with a south-west wind helping me. After
crossing the Province diagonally I'm now heading in the direction I
really want to go. This road is part of the tourist route called the
"Red Coat Trail", named after the march of the Mounties in the 1870's.
It goes from Lethbridge, across southern Alberta, Saskatchewan,
and Manitoba. At Lethbridge it joins the Crownest Pass route which goes
across southern BC. This would be a good route across all of western
Canada, since it has light traffic.

   The terrain is a bit more rolling.  Off to the north I can see a range
of hills called Moose Mountain.  I passed the village of Forget but I
forget what happened there.  I has a first lunch near Kisbey, then went
on to Carlyle where I went grocery shopping.  This is the closest town
to Moose Mtn Prov Park which is supposed to be a nice oasis of hills,
woods and lakes on the prairies. 

   I had a second lunch in a municipal campground at Manor, then it was
an uneventfull ride to Redvers, the last big town in Saskatchewan.  I
arrived there around 1800 and checked into the campgrounds adjacent to
the fairgrounds.  Most of the Canada Day festivites were winding down-
of course they had had a breakfast in the morning.  I went for a swim in
the town pool.  Then I had desert first, some Saskatoon pie- I can't
leave Saskatchewan without that.  Saskatoon is the prairie name for
berries of the Amelanchier tree.  The berries, which are sweeter than
blueberries, also grow in Eastern Canada where they are called
serviceberries, shadberries or indian pears, but it seems that they are
only eaten in the west. 
  
 At dusk, the town had fireworks which were quite good for a small
town.
 
Sun  2-July  Dumrea, Manitoba  [158km  128m]
 
   After my first breakfast I went into the tourist bureau and had a 2nd
breakfast of free coffee and cake.  I finally got going at 0945.  Winds
were light and I reached the Manitoba border in 30 minutes.  Another
province finished! The road number changes to Rt 2.  In the summer
Saskatchewan and Manitoba are in different time zones.  There were a few
showers which got a little heavier so I sought shelter near Pipestone
and had my first lunch. 

   Then it started clearing up. The wind was light and the air above the
road was filled with thousands of dragonflies. They were fascinating to
watch as they darted around, but none of them ever collided with me.
They eat lots of mosquitos, black flies and even big horse flies. I wish
I could convince them to come with me all the way across Canada!
   When I turned south on Rt 21 to Hartney the wind had picked up to
south-east so it was hard riding. I took a little diversion into the
town where I had a 2nd lunch.   

   Then I turned east on Route 23 is very flat with no trees, few houses
and little traffic.  For the first part there weren't even any power
poles so I there was very little sensation of motion.  There was a dot
on the map called "Underhill" but there was nothing there, certainly no
hill to be under. 

  I got water at a campground in Elgin but it was to early to stop yet. 
The railway was diverving from the highway and each village got further
away as I passed Fairfax and Minto.  I rode south for 5 km on Rt 10.  At
the next corner where Rt 23 turned east again there was a closed motel. 
The dot on the map, Margaret, was nothing.  I've got to find a camping
spot soon. 

   I spotted a grove of trees a short distance down a side road so I
camped there at about 2030. 
 
Mon  3-July  Morden  [162km  416m] 

   This morning it was foggy, not as thick fog as we get in Nova Scotia,
but since there are not many landmarks out here it made things look
weird. 
  In less than 5 km I came to an empty municipal campground.  I could
have camped here if I'd known! As I had breakfast the fog thinned out,
revealing the outside world.  There was the village of Dumrea just off
the road. 

   Then I'm on to Ninette, where I just got some snacks, and neglected
to get bread and water.  I hoped that Pelican Lake would be a good swim
stop but signs warned of toxic algae.  So on to Belmont where there was
a scary sign up for the Bate's Motel.  I need a shower but not here!

   Now it's hot and windy as I head south on Rt 5 then east on Rt 253.
There are no stores or places to get water. Finally I get to a store in
Glenora and quickly down a liter of Gatorade, fill my water bottles and
get some groceries. I had lunch in a picnic area.
 
 There is a dip and rise in the road as I cross the Pembina River for
the first time. At Pilot Mound I join Rt 3. The wind has increased from
the north-east so I have a headwind. At La Riviere I cross the Pembina
River for the second time. There are even signs warning of the big hills
descending and ascending the valley. It is about a 80 m hill on both
sides, one of the biggest hills in southern Manitoba!. There's even a
downhill ski resort!
    There is also a statue of a wild turkey so I take a picture of that!
There hasn't been much spectacular scenery so my photos are mostly of
strange and often tacky things. 

   At Manitou the road heads south so I get a tailwind for a few
minutes. There are dark clouds threatening and increasing north-east
winds as I plod east to Darlington. I stop for an early supper at a
picnic area at the junction of Rt 31. I was thinking of camping there
but decided to push on another 20 km to Morden.
    Although there was still a wind I felt stronger. There were showers
around but they missed me. Just before Morden I turned off to the Lake
Minnewasta Camp Ground. I was expecting a tacky commercial campground but
it was quite nice. Since there was a cool breeze I decided not to swim
at the beach. I noticed lots of sunflower seed shells on the ground.
There was a sign in the washroom "Please Do Not Eat Sunflower Seeds in
Here". This is the sunflower capital of Canada! 

Tues 4-July   Dominion City    [109km    0m, YES zero!] 
    The weather forcast called for strong north-east winds, I hoped that
it wouldn't happen.  There is a bike path from the lake to town.  I did
a little shopping but neglected to get some bread.  There were several
bike shops in town which is surprising since it is a small town.  What
is more surprising is that they sold mostly MOUNTAIN bikes, in this land
of mole-hills.  There was a big triathlon next week (maybe Iron Man
distance ?).  I hope they didn't have the headwinds I had. 
 
   Then I rode around the grounds of the Agriculture Research Station.
In the town there are trees which blocked the wind but once out of
town it was a different story.

  Highway 3  is a divided highway with wide shoulders but completely
exposed to the wind. So I decided to get off of it as soon as possible,
in the hopes that secondary roads would be more sheltered. I turned
south at Winkler and got a good tailwind for a few minutes. I skipped
the grocery stores, thinking that the villages ahead would have stores.

   The first village of Schanzenfeld looked big but there were no grocery
stores. All of the towns around here have German names, the area was
settled by German speaking Mennonites. Then I turned east on Rt 201, back
into a head wind. The next village of Gnaderthal had no grocery stores
either.

  There was no shelter from the wind at all.  This is the flattest
country I have ever seen, it looks like Holland complete with drainage
ditches.  The road is straight and there no trees. Also there is very
little traffic.  Far ahead I would see what looked like some trees that
would break the wind.  It would take about 15 minutes to get there, the
trees break the wind for 5 seconds, then it is another long stretch.  My
speed was 12 to 15 km/hr.  I try to admire the scenery- wheat for 10
minutes, then canola for 10 minutes.  There are fields of sunflowers but
they won't be in bloom for at least a month- that would have been a
pretty scene- maybe they would even break the wind! I am out of water
and hungry too.  Fortunately it is not extremely hot, maybe 25 C, but
the wind still dehydrates me. 

   Finally I reach Altona and a grocery store.  There is a whole section
of the store devoted to different types of sunflower seeds.  I prefer
the shelled ones.  I gulped down a liter of sports drink and headed for
the town park where I had lunch. 
  To get back to Rt 201 I had to head north for about 5 K, against an
even stronger wind.  Then I head due east again.  Now the names are
French, St Joseph, Letellier.  But it still looks like Holland. 

  At Letellier I cross Rt 75 which is the main road south from Winnipeg
to the US.  Now I approach the Red River, another important river in
Canadian history.  I was expecting some sort of valley but the land is
flat right to the river bank.  The water is more brown than red
and doesn't look very inviting.  

  I reached Dominion City at about 1730 and I am tired of fighting the
headwind so I decide to stop there.  I see more trees ahead, even small
forests! The main attraction in town is the life size statue of a giant
sturgeon that was caught in the Roseau River about 1910! There is also a
municipal swimming pool.  I ask in the grocery store where I could camp
and they mention a park by the bridge on Rt 200.  I ride out there and
find a park maintained by the wildlife federation.  It looked like it
was still not finished since picnic tables were brand new and there were
holes being dug, probably for privies.  There wasn't any drinking water. 
The river is muddy brown but some people are fishing.  No one caught any
giant sturgeon while I was watching. 

   I put up my tent, then rode back to the town, went for a refreshing
swim and got some water.  On the way back I passed by a U-pick
strawberry field but thought I'd come later.  I missed my chance! Plants
around the campground looked like poison ivy so I had to be careful. 

  This was the flattest 100 km I've ever ridden, my altimeter registered
zero climb! But it was one of the hardest day's of my trip.

Wed  5-July  Piney, Man.   [95km  160m] 

  It started to rain during the night. At 0630 the rain seemed to stop
so I got up and had breakfast. Then it started to rain again so I went
back into my tent until about 1000. Then there was another pause in the
rain so I took down my soggy tent and went into the town for some
grocery shopping, mail some postcards and linger around waiting for the
rain to at least lighten up. Then I head east on Rt 201.
 
   I keep hoping that this rain is doing some good, and is putting out
forest fires in the province. This area did need rain .

   I can't describe the scenery since I couldn't see much today through
my glasses. The plastic lenses have a strong attraction to water. I have
tried various treatments for the lenses, "Rain Away", swim goggle stuff,
saliva, soap. Some of them work for a few minutes but wear off quickly.
I could see better without my glasses.

  I think were a lot more trees and they helped to break the wind which
was more north today.  I did see some strange looking churches with
strange Cyrillic letters.

   At the junction of Rt 59 I went into a restaurant for about an hour,
had some hot drinks and pie but the rain did not stop.  So I headed out
again towards Vita.  I was looking for a store when a guy at a gas
station yelled to come in.  I put my bike in the garage and went in.  I
must have been there about 2 hours.  Of course the main conversation of
the locals who came in was how much rain they would get.  Some of the
older locals who came in spoke in Ukrainian to the owner.  The owner did
mention that there had been several cyclists by here in the last few
weeks. This was the first indication that I wasn't the only touring
cyclist in Canada!

   I finally got going when it looked like the rain was stopped.  It
seemed a bit drier or maybe I was so wet that it didn't matter.  I did
get a bit of tailwind as the road edged southwards.  The thought of
camping tonight was not very pleasant.  There were just a few small
villages before I got to Piney which is at a major junction of Rt 12 and
89 at about 1830.

   The village is a bit south of the junction. As I headed through the
village I noticed that everthing was closed- PERMANENTLY- the gas
station, the general store. At the far end there was a "hotel" which
looked deserted but it was still in business. They did have a room for
$15! The room was small and I filled it up completely with damp stuff.
  The establishment is mostly a tavern. Unfortunately the dining area
was not open so I had to buy some junk food so supplement my groceries.

Thur 6-July   Emo, Ontario  [188km  172m] 

   This morning it had stopped raining and it was beginning to clear up
as I cooked my breakfast outside.  The wind was north-west which meant a
tail wind, at last! I cruised on Rt 12 along the relatively flat ground
through a lot of woods which was a new experience.  There were a few
scattered farms.  I turned off to the town of Sprague to get groceries. 
At Middleboro I got a few last minute souvenirs of Manitoba, and after
eating my last oranges, I crossed into Warroad, Minnesota, USA at about
1200.  The US customs guy didn't ask me if I have any citrus fruit. 
  
  The road signs here are in miles (=1.6km) so distances are longer than
they first seem.  It is about 60 km to Baudette.  It is very flat
farmland, woods and marshes south of Lake of The Woods.  I stopped at a
state park picnic area for lunch.  I spread my soaked tent out to dry in
the sun.  I think it was a kg lighter after that!

  The wind just pushed me along to Baudette.  I didn't even do much
cross-border shopping before I crossed the Rainy River Bridge into
Ontario.  The Canada Customs officer asked , How long have I been out of
Canada and what did I buy.  Oh, about 3 hours and I bought a bag of
banana chips. 

   I had a second lunch at the Rainy River tourist bureau then went in
to get some Ontario maps, etc. This is going to be a big province!
The sign said 440 km to Thunder Bay, I wanted to try to get that down
to less than 400 today, although the time is already 1700.

  This is more like Manitoba than Ontario. Some people call in
Manitario.  It is a last outpost of farmland before the rocky Canadian
Shield.  I see more and more granite outcrops sticking out of the
fields. 

   I stopped in a picnic ground at Barwick and made supper around 1930.
I planned to look for a campsite later. But as I was passing through Emo
at 2100 I saw a motel and become lazy and stopped! It was much more
expensive than I thought it would be, over $70 including taxes! It was a
huge room.

Coming Soon: "If it's July , This must be Ontario."